Spring Garlic—What Is It And How To Use It

Spring Garlic is similar to green onions in appearance, but with a mild garlic flavor. As a bonus, they are prolific growers, so you can have these year after year.

I’m always looking for a new food to try in the kitchen. It’s even better when I can experiement with a locally grown ingredient that is inexpensive and abundant.

Enter Spring Garlic

First what is it?

Some refer to this as wild garlic, although we grow a row on purpose. It comes back every year and in fact multiplies if we don’t keep it under control. This garlic does not produce large bulbs like you will find on cultivated garlic, but it is still quite delicious. There are several parts of this plant I use at different times of the year.

Parts to use

Spring garlic does not produce large root bulbs, so don’t expect to use this for cloves of garlic. Instead, in the early spring, it is used like green onions, except with the taste of garlic. Later, as it prepares to flower, the end of the flower stalk can be snapped off and cooked. These are referred to as scapes. (This post gives more information about using those.)

After a week or so of growth beyond the scape stage, you can harvest bulbils. These occur just before the bud begins to break open into a flower and provide another tasty option. Pick the flower bud, peel back the thin covering and separate the tiny bulbs. These give a delicious pop of garlic flavor in any dish.

Early stalk use

The rest of this post will describe how to use the early part that looks like a green onion.

Harvest when the bottom is just beginning to swell and the green shoots are about one to two feet tall. While you are harvesting for the table, you are also thinning out the crop to allow the remaining plants to grow and thrive. Trim the root ends and peel back the outer layer of more fibrous covering. Wash thoroughly to remove any remaining dirt particles.

Slice thinly just up to where the stalk begins to turn green. Send the remainder to the compost pile.

Use as you would in place of garlic. Beware, this will smell very strong but the flavor is quite light.

Sample Menu

For an entirely garlic themed meal, I used thinly sliced pieces in a lemon and olive oil sauce for pasta. Then, I minced the remaining pieces, mixed with butter and topped italian seasoned scones. Pair with a crisp green salad. Delicious.

For more cooking ideas like this, check out my cooking memoir Simply Delicious. Plus follow our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram social media for daily Five Feline Farm updates.

Black Walnuts: A Forager’s Treat

Foraging for food is part of the joy of living in the country with natural resources. Our food supply does not end when the gardens are put to rest. The abundant black walnut trees at Five Feline Farm provide nuts with a distinctive flavor and are one of our favorites.

Harvesting the nuts is a process starting with the easy part: collection. Simply pick up nuts that have fallen to the ground. It doesn’t matter if the outer hull is green or black at this stage, just pick them up and fill a bucket. Collect way more than you think you need. By the time you have hulled, cracked and picked out the nutmeats, a five gallon bucket will yield about a quart of nuts.

The next step is to let the nuts dry until the hulls are completely black and withered. A great place to do this is in the greenhouse. The easiest way to remove the hulls is spread them in the driveway and run over them repeatedly with a vehicle of some kind. This year the riding mower was pressed into service but a pickup truck or car works nicely too.

20131201-101044.jpg

Step three is sort the nuts from the hulls. Wear gloves for this step. Walnut hulls can be used as a dye and make everything a nice warm brown color. Although this is a wonderful natural dye for fabric and wool, it is not great for skin unless you like an uneven brown tone on your hands. It will not wash off, so plan for a week or more with your hands in this condition. Again, wear gloves.

After picking up the hulled nuts, let them dry again in the greenhouse for several days. The nuts can keep for a significant period of time at this stage. Mesh bags that ten pounds of oranges come in are a nice ventilated bag to store the nuts while drying. After drying, some people wash them off in a bucket of water to remove the additional pieces of hull or dust that remains. You can also just shake the bag to rattle off some of the remaining dried bits of hull. This makes the cracking process a little cleaner.

20131201-100939.jpg

Now the most difficult part. Cracking the nuts. Black walnuts are one of the most difficult to crack because of the hard shells. Really hard. It is worth the investment to buy a good lever action nutcracker made especially for black walnuts. This will create enough leverage to actually crack the nut without crushing all of the nut meats. Just such a nutcracker is available from www.lehmans.com for about $40.

20131201-100822.jpg

Lastly pick out the nuts. Black walnuts do not come out in good halves like pecans or English walnuts but you can get some sizable chunks. The flavor is worth every crumb. The best tool for picking out the small pieces is a dental pick which is readily available at most pharmacies.

20131201-101210.jpg

The flavor of black walnuts is woodsy and earthy, rich with distinctive flavor. Black walnut ice cream is a delicious treat or try adding some to your favorite fudge recipe.

What other recipes would you recommend for black walnuts?